A Strengths-Based Perspective

The purpose of this paper is to explore the recent paradigm shift in mental health, social work, and other helping professions toward embracing a strengths-based approach and its’ implications for the crucial role of care provision and educational practice with children and youth. Discouraged by the limited effectiveness of problem-focused interventions, interventions have moved increasingly toward creating a coordinated sequence of positive experiences and providing key developmental supports and opportunities. Rather than the traditional perspective of engaging a person with a problem orientation and risk focus, a strengths- based approach seeks to understand and develop the strengths and capabilities that can transform the lives of people in positive ways. The idea of promoting strengths-based practice often creates an unexpected dilemma. Intuitively, the idea of focusing on the strengths of a person is warmly embraced and considered to be a respectful and meaningful starting point in supporting positive change. However, the actual practice of identifying, acknowledging and working with strengths as a starting point for change is rarely experienced by those receiving the service of the community care providers and educational system. Many will claim to be working from a strengths-based perspective, but it is rare to see organizations seriously working from an underlying set of values, principles and philosophy of strengths-based practice. In response to this challenge, the Alberta Mentoring Partnership engaged in the effort to provide a brief resource paper that would support those who wishing to explore more closely their desire to better understand what is a strengths-based philosophy of practice and to align this philosophy of practice with their service delivery and educational practice.

Publication Date: 
Alberta, Canada